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Schalke plan to spoil Porto return

Coach Mirko Slomka intends to mark a milestone match for FC Schalke 04 with a milestone victory that could tarnish FC Porto's glorious memories of Gelsenkirchen.

Mirko Slomka intends to mark a milestone match for FC Schalke 04 with a milestone victory to tarnish FC Porto's fond memories of Gelsenkirchen – the last time the Portuguese club visited the Ruhr city they carried off the 2003/04 UEFA Champions League trophy.

European heritage
Schalke will reach a century of European appearances (not including 12 UEFA Intertoto Cup outings) when they make their last-16 debut against Porto, and Slomka insists he is a sentimental man at heart. "This is our 100th game in UEFA club competition and it will be our 50th victory too!" said the 40-year-old, a slight grin failing to mask the strength of his conviction. "Porto have more experience and a stronger European heritage. But we are at home, we're collectively strong and have a bit more physical presence. We need to take our chances."

Leaky defence
Keeping it tight at the back has been a problem for Schalke in recent weeks, with Manuel Neuer's goal remaining unbreached only once since December. "We are struggling to keep clean sheets," said Slomka, whose problems have been exacerbated by injuries to defender Christian Pander and midfielder Zlatan Bajramović although he can at least call upon Jermaine Jones following suspension. "Our problem seems to be that when we score, we are not content to drop off and play on the break. Instead we keep attacking and opponents keep punishing us."

Own agenda
The horizon in Gelsenkirchen is somewhat dominated by the Westerholt power station, specifically its 337m chimney – the tallest in Germany – and like the landmark, Schalke have been blowing hot and cold all season. Friday's 2-1 home defeat by VfL Wolfsburg spoiled an eleven-game unbeaten sequence after a torrid autumn, though it should not have dented confidence too deeply and Slomka believes the key to success against Porto lies in forcing the play. "Away from home Porto like to sit back and wait for the counterattack, using the long ball to Lisandro López," he said. "We need to harry them, prevent them playing their own game, and play to our strengths instead."

López form
Slomka's Porto counterpart, Jesualdo Ferreira, knows all about Schalke's strong points, stressing that "they are a very good German team – possibly the best at the moment". Ferreira's men are certainly the best in Portugal at present having maintained their ten-point advantage at the Liga summit with Friday's 3-0 victory at CS Marítimo, courtesy of two strikes from the in-form López. The attacking hopes of the 2,700 travelling fans may rest on the 16-goal forward's shoulders, but supporters will also be able to evoke memories of one of Porto's greatest triumphs: beating AS Monaco FC at the Arena AufSchalke to win the 2004 UEFA Champions League.

History boys
Only Pedro Emanuel and the injured Bosingwa remain from that successful side, and Ferreira is keen for his team to write a new chapter in their story this season, not merely to revisit old ones. "I don't need to talk about the symbolic power of Schalke – the stadium, the atmosphere – it's something special," he said. "But we have to forget that. We have to fight, be aggressive. You can't win a game with history."